by Michael Corsilles~Ever feel like you have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), where it’s difficult to organize and finish tasks? Have you noticed it’s getting harder to multitask? Are you noticing this in children? Many parents tell me in my practice that their child can’t sit still, they jump from topic to topic, and don’t follow directions. Many grownups also tell me they are noticing this in themselves! So, do you or your loved one have ADHD, or is it kids being kids, or is it just our ever increasing sensory overload?
ADHD’s classic symptoms include inattention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness, which typically are identified in childhood, but can extend to adult life. There’s a been a steady rise in children diagnosed with ADHD. According to the CDC site on ADHD in children:
- Children with an ADHD diagnosis continues to increase, from 7.8% in 2003 to 9.5% in 2007 and to 11.0% in 2011.
- Rates of diagnosis increased an average of 3% per year from 1997 to 2006 and an average of approximately 5% per year from 2003 to 2011.
The ADHD diagnosis topic is a tough one. The jury is still out on the exact reason for the rise in ADHD. Genetics definitely play a role as ADHD can run in the family. But are TV and video games contributing? How about exposure to genetically modified foods and pollution? These all could potentially be contributors, but none proven as of yet. Other factors to consider surround the diagnosis itself: Are health care providers diagnosing better or too often? Are drug companies advertising the medications more often? Are parents pushing this diagnosis onto primary care providers?
Unfortunately, there is no test to run other than thorough interviewing with patients, parents, teachers and maybe having children take a somewhat standardized ADHD questionnaire. Providers must evaluate mood, behavior at school or work, and overall lifestyle habits. There are a number of factors that can contribute to focus issues including learning disorders, a number of medical conditions, and simply sensory overload in our busy lifestyles at home and work. The bottom line is: ADHD ain’t an easy diagnosis to make. BUT, according to the CDC stats above, it is being diagnosed more often. I suggest you open the dialogue with your primary care provider about ADHD concerns.
In the meantime, I highly recommend the following tasks to clarify our ever-increasing mind clutter. I mentioned in my previous blog that our brains are not programmed to multitask (even though are lives require it). Multitasking simply means doing multiple tasks poorly!
You will get things done better if you focus and finish one task at a time. In today’s society, we have too many things to do – work, school, and social activities – and it’s nearly impossible to get everything organized. We end up cluttering our minds with all the things that need to get done and get overwhelmed and it often seems like we may have ADHD. So clear out that mental clutter by doing the following:
1. De-stress on the Commute Home
Your pace and energy is different at the office than at home. Take advantage of your drive home to help you change gears. Turn off excess stimulation by turning off the news and putting away your cell phone. Focus more on how you want to spend time with your family at home.
2. Learn to Say No
Don’t take on more than you can chew. It’s nice to help out, but sometimes you have to place boundaries to prevent from being pressured to keep your commitments.
3. Use other parts of the brain
Have things going on at home that stimulate other parts of your brain. This means don’t bring work home! You must separate work life from home life. For most of us type-A personalities, doing nothing is not helpful, so you might benefit by doing something fun and stimulating to other parts of our brain, giving our “work brain” a rest.
In today’s fast-paced society, the focus tends to be on work, work and work. More responsibility means more multitasking. Learn to be a great “single-tasker.” Focus on one task at a time when possible. If you are concerned about ADHD in you or your loved ones, please follow up with your primary care provider. The ADHD topic itself is not an easy one to tackle in this one blog entry. If anything, talk to your provider to do a thorough and focused exam for proper diagnosis. Remember, health care providers are forced to multitask at their jobs too!